Housing Solutions Not One Size Fits All

by Miriam October 8, 2021

By Miriam Owsley, Strategic Communications Manager

Nearly every community in Northern Michigan is experiencing the effects of housing shortages and rising housing costs.

For low- and middle-income families, higher housing costs can mean that they may experience financial insecurity, unsafe living conditions, and homelessness. Housing shortages make it difficult for employers to attract and retain staff when they cannot afford to live within a reasonable distance to their work. And a lack of affordable housing can lead to talented, skilled professionals leaving the region for work elsewhere.

“The situation is pretty dire. We’re hopeful but concerned,” says Yarrow Brown, Executive Director of Housing North, a nonprofit organized in 2018 by a cross-sector group of regional housing partners to overcome the many challenges that stand in the way of housing solutions.

In 2020, Housing North was awarded a $150,000 Systems Change Accelerator grant to continue momentum to address housing challenges by coordinating and facilitating communication, advocacy, and housing development capacity in our region.

Housing is a top priority in communities throughout Northern Michigan, but the solutions don’t come with a one-size-fits-all approach. To dial into the needs of each community, Housing North works with Housing Solution Practitioner Circles representing business, philanthropy, workforce development, housing agencies, and 136 units of government in the ten-county region it serves.

"The work we’re doing through this Systems Change Accelerator grant is helping communities see how we’re all part of the solutions,” says Brown. Since its inception, the organization has developed detailed strategic plans that have resulted in robust public awareness campaigns, successful advocacy for new legislation and funding rules, capacity for “Housing Ready” staff, and an innovative housing program pilot.

This work will drive durable change by creating new funding sources for housing, leveraging existing tools, and building more support for housing solutions that will enable partners to meet the region's diverse housing needs.

"Housing North exists today because Rotary Charities was able to envision and embrace the concept of systems change: an approach to a complex problem that addresses not just its symptoms, but its roots. Housing North’s work is organized around the idea of systems change, a process that can be as slow as it is impactful. We’ve been able to make quick progress because of the capacity made possible by Rotary Charities; and are hopeful that our progress will build momentum and support from other partners.”  - Sarah Lucas, Housing North

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